Serving, surveying, teaching, and modeling

Upon arriving in Iloilo, Rodney constantly talked about the Frontline Shepard’s Conference he was helping organize for local pastors. As it turned out, our week on Servant Leadership involved helping Rodney run the conference. The Sunday before opening day, we met at the auditorium and began the process of last minute preparations.

Although the conferences I’ve previously helped with were for programmers, this one still had familiar themes. Unlike writing software, an event happens at a specific place, at a specific time. You don’t have a chance to do things over or to fix things after the fact. Because of this, you’re always doing three dozen things at the last minute. For instance, Rodney handed me a box of pens and said “take the barcode stickers off all these pens. I’m not asking you to do this just to give you menial work…” Then I finished “…it just needs to be done!” Oh Rodney, I know the drill…

Once all of the last minute pen.. er, preparations were in place, we spent the next three days helping run the conference. Registrations were paid, people were directed, pastors were encouraged, and God’s call to missions was preached loudly and clearly. We also got to sit in on some of the sessions and meet the speakers.

At the end of the three days, we were tired and took a nap.

The week after, we again worked with Nate and Abegail and Jesus Is Hope And Light Church. This time, we surveyed a community near the Calajunan dump site called So-oc. Much like San Isidro, So-oc was a smaller community until 10,000 people were relocated there from other parts of Ilolio City. Most of the roads of So-oc are dirt and many homes are suspended over swampy land by bamboo poles.

Armed with umbrellas, sunscreen, and paper surveys on clipboards, we ventured into the community. We set out in paris, with one Ilonggo speaker and one English speaker. The survey covered some vital questions about age, income, occupation, nutrition, and water. Rain poured both of the days we were there, turning the dirt roads of So-oc into a wet, muddy mess. The number of households we were able to survey dwindled.

Honestly, I felt mostly useless while during the surveys. I still speak Ilonggo “gamay lang,” and couldn’t understand most of the responses. At most, I was able to pray silently and make some occasional small talk. However, as I would later learn, the last thing the survey was about was my ability to communicate with the locals. Even the survey itself was less about the information being collected, vital as it was.

We gathered our completed surveys together and handed them over to Nomil and Valerie. They compiled the survey results in Iloilo, while the rest of us boarded a quick flight over to Davao. While there, we took turns teaching courses at Calvary Bible Institute. When I initially learned we would be teaching at a Bible school, I was very apprehensive. My formal Bible training consists of a college course in Hermeneutics and little else. But when we took gifting assessments during the first week of the internship, mine came up as Teacher.

Then Dave announced that I would be teaching children’s ministry. What a relief to hear I would be teaching something I know! After reading the curriculum, making some notes, and adding in some parts from experience, I arrived on Tuesday morning ready to teach. Three hours flew by before I knew it and we covered the majority of the material. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching that day and want to explore doing more of it in the future!

Art teaches on Christian Families

When we got back from Davao, we reunited with Nomil and Valerie. They prepared a presentation based on the So-oc survey data, then we added suggestions based on what we saw. We the gave the presentation to the pastor of the church, as well as several missionaries. While the pastor appreciated our suggestions, she also mentioned that our survey caused a not entirely unexpected side effect.

Church members from So-oc noticed our survey efforts, then took it upon themselves to do their own survey in a section we hadn’t even reached. Through their survey, they were able to invite more people to the church who were previously unaware of it. Many families currently taking three separate jeepney rides to church will soon start walking to Jesus Is Hope and Light Church.

My Ilonggo proficiency didn’t have any bearing on the success of this survey. The number of people we surveyed also wasn’t important. Many of the questions themselves weren’t absolutely crucial information. And I didn’t even get a chance to use my training in statistics to compile the results. The important thing is that we did the survey, which encouraged the local church to take over.

There is no way I can sustain a church planting movement through my individual efforts. Nor can I eliminate poverty by simply feeding and clothing the poor. But I can model what needs to be done. I can motivate other people through my actions. And I can offer advice based on my experience and observations.

However, once we model, it’s absolutely crucial to step back and let the local church continue. When we don’t, an unsustainable dependency is created that stunts the local church’s growth.

Modeling is something we’ve learned throughout the internship. Although we’ve learned cultural immersion, children’s ministry, Community Health Evangelism, servant leadership, community development surveys, and teaching, they are not avenues for building our own ministries. They are tools to help us build the ministries of local churches.

Having practiced all of these methods, we’re coming to the end of the internship. In this last week, we will lay out a vision for our future work as missionaries. While I’m sad to be leaving Iloilo so soon, I know that God will always lead me to the right place at the right time.

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